COMMENTARY: Courageous, committed, creative people needed

COMMENTARY: Courageous, committed, creative people needed

Engage. Empower. Thrive.

To be successful, organizations must stay focused on several key priorities simultaneously. For the past four years, our school district’s improvement plan has been organized around three priority areas: student achievement, well-being and engagement.

Recently, the Board of Education adopted these three areas, along with fiscal oversight, as their priorities. The board’s goals can be seen on our website under the “Board of Education” tab. Regardless if it is a school district, business or civic organization, entities are more likely to achieve their goals by creating coherence through identifying roles and responsibilities.

Within our school district, we participate in different actions and improvement strategies, yet we all are working towards the same outcome of improvement for our students. The priorities we have identified intersect in different ways creating a tapestry that illustrates the path to growth and change for this incredible school district. Building a bright and dynamic future for our children includes defining a collective vision for the future and then making deliberate decisions to assure that this vision comes to life. Now, this process is before us. 

At the Board of Education meeting in January, the board voted to implement a single educational approach, in the coming years, as we move towards a reconfiguration of our grades and schools.

The configuration decided upon can be described as primary, intermediate, middle and high.

This includes changing Brewster to grades pre-K through grade 2, Memorial to grades 3 through 5, Strong to grades 6 through 8 and Coginchaug maintaining grades 9 through 12.

The building alterations at Brewster and Memorial that will be necessary to accommodate this plan are projected to be completed within the next two years. The target start date of this reconfiguration is September 2021.

The projected move of 6th grade to Strong is September 2020. This plan, which includes the ultimate closing of the John Lyman School, was formulated from several years of input from students, staff, parents and community members. The board considered community ideas and questions, and fiscal considerations including the “ability to pay” for both towns. The overriding goal was to provide students with the best possible education and educational experience. A referendum to approve the funding of the reconfiguration will be held in November.

Planning for the educational future of all students is ongoing. Our next planning process will be the “Portrait of the Graduate” work which will be facilitated by The Center of School Change. A series of after school and early evening collaborative sessions will take place beginning in March. The purpose of this process is to identify the skills, knowledge and dispositions that our graduates should possess to position them for success in the future.

From there, we will use a “backwards” design approach to determine what experiences our students need to have in order to guarantee that they mirror the portrait we have collectively identified. We began this process last year with our strategic visioning work and identified priority themes and design elements. Strong influences in these decisions are the practices and culture that exist at John Lyman School, including “HOT” school and integrated day programming. Integrated programming is also present at Memorial (grades 5 and 6) and Strong School (grade 7).

This is a very exciting time for our school district and a time for courageous, committed and creative people of all ages to participate in defining the future of RSD13. There are many ways to participate, including attending Board of Education meetings, serving as a community member on a committee, or participating in the portrait of the graduate work. Also, simply reaching out to us to communicate your thoughts, ideas and questions is always appreciated. Please visit our website at to learn more about our district and to access our contact information.

Each year at this time, my proposed budget is presented to the RSD13 Board of Education. The proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year was presented on Feb. 13 and represents a .06 percent increase to the current operating budget. Expenditures and revenues account for an overall change of $22,370 over the 2018-2019 budget.

Over the course of the last four years, the average budget increase has been .22 percent. Each year, we use the process of “zero-based” budgeting to assure that proposed changes to the budget are essential, regardless if they are additions or deletions. We always examine as many possibilities for responsibly achieving our identified outcomes. RSD13 has a talented, diverse and dedicated team whose responsibilities vary to contribute in building a successful school district.

Each person plays a vital role in offering a high quality educational experience for children. Having school buildings that are well-maintained, including materials and supplies that foster engagement, are critical. Most important, is the presence of leaders and educators who truly care for our students and each other. It is also critical that the staff is engaged in ongoing professional development. Our mission is to support adult and student learning at the very highest level. We are committed to providing a learning environment where students’ academic, social and emotional growth is celebrated and supported. The proposed budget includes expanding programming at the high school for STEAM, engineering and computer science, staffing to support full-time library media centers at the elementary level, special education and math support personnel.

Additionally, the proposed budget includes a comprehensive plan for addressing immediate and short-term capital needs outlined in the operating budget and bonding recommendation of $6.9 million. The proposed budget is available on our website and paper copies are available in both town halls and libraries. The budget process will continue for the next two months with Board meetings held on March 6, March 13 and March 27.

The involvement of our communities in the growth of our school district is essential and appreciated. Together we will engage, empower, and thrive.

Kathy Veronesi is Superintendent of RSD13.





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